Packing for college can be a little stressful. You've got to make sure you have enough clothes for all of the seasons, the right books and supplies for your classes, all of your toiletries, enough storage space to put this stuff in. You've got to make sure you've got all of your pictures of your BFFs from home and your family printed out, all of the decorations for your room put together, and all of your snacks ready to go. Those were all of the necessities for me...or so I thought.
The most important thing that I've brought to college has been some advice and lessons I learned on the road to get here. More specifically, the lessons I learned in high school.
In high school, I learned...
1. Embrace the struggle
There were so many nights during my junior year that felt like they'd never end. I was drowning in my various assignments, but mostly struggling with mental health and outside situations that made me feel like things would never get better. After getting out of that dark period, I learned that instead of looking at those moments with the mindset of, "Why is this happening to me?" that I should look at it with the mentality of, "What is this teaching me?" or "How can I grow from this?"
2. Find at least one thing every day that you can look forward to
In high school, I think a lot of people fall into the same routine. You go to school. You take the same classes every day. You sit by the same people at lunch. Etcetera. Life doesn't have to be so bland and uniform. If you can find one thing to stand out each day that can bring you a little bit of joy, even when it feels like you're just going through the motions, that can make all the difference in the world.
3. You don't have to be defined by the choices you've made
Wake up and take each day as it comes. With an open heart, an open mind, and a whole sea of possibilities awaiting. I think in high school, especially as a freshman and sophomore, I was still struggling with the person I was in middle school. Those three years were the worst for me, and they turned me into a person I wasn't proud of. I spent so much time dwelling on the past until I realized that I couldn't move on until I let it go. I had to take responsibility, obviously, but I wasn't the same person I was then, so why was I letting that version of myself controll my life? Own up to yesterday's mistakes and follies, learn from them, and grow.
4. That being said, don't forget where you've been
My mom always tells me that a parents job is to love their kids and prepare them to leave the nest. To help them plant their roots at home but to be able to grow somewhere else. I think that's beautiful, and I think it's important. I grew up moving around from place to place, never staying anywhere for more than a year or two before the military would move my Dad and station him elsewhere. That was my life until we finally settled in Charleston. Charleston is my home, but I also feel equally as content and at home here in Rhode Island. I miss my family, I know where my roots are planted, but I am here, growing in Rhode Island, and becoming the best version of myself.
5. Your feelings are valid
You have sucky days. You have days where you feel like you're on top of the world. Both kinds of days are equally as important.
6. The best kind of people are the ones that push you to be the most genuine version of yourself
There were cliques at my school. When your school has 4,000 kids, it'd be a miracle if there weren't. I think when I first got to high school, I wanted so badly to find my place, I put my passions and personality on the back burner. I found a group of unique, creative, and loving people who pushed me to be the best, most authentic version of myself. That's how I knew I'd found my place. No matter what you love to do or who you're surrounded by, make sure you're being authentic. The people who want to be around that you are the ones worth keeping forever.
7. Family is more than just your blood
Yes, that is super cliche. But don't think for one second that this isn't true. In high school, I was a part of yearbook and choir for four years in some way shape or form. Over the course of those four years, I met some of my best friends, learned how to love, and laugh and feel free with these groups of people who cared for me. I looked forward to seeing hundreds of people every single day because each of them played a role in making me who I am today.
8. Go on random 1 a.m. adventures with people you love
My senior year of high school was one of the best years of my life. I had ups and downs, but I think 2017-2018 was the school year I laughed the most, loved the best, and felt free. My friends and I almost all went to different schools, so we spent as much time as we could with each other. Days at the beach or going on little trips turned into nights filled with Italian food and movies at my house, which turned into piling into various cars and going to the beach after midnight to try and find ghost crabs. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you're doing it with people who make the strangest of things seem like the most fun thing in the world.
9. Travel as often as you can
Whether you're taking an 8-hour bus trip to Orlando, a 36-hour ride to Colorado, or a 4-hour flight to DC, find people who make the destination equally as entertaining as the journey to get there. And then go out and explore.
To people you know. To strangers. To people you agree with. To people you don't. To people who are younger than you, or older than you. Listen to your classmates and their ideas and their dreams. Listen, listen, listen, listen. It's the only way you can start to shape a well-rounded worldview and grow. Listen and know your truth, and don't be afraid to change it should you discover you had some things wrong. Listen and learn from people from different walks of life from you. Listen for a new perspective. Listen to your gut about things. Listen to your heart, too. Listen listen listen.
High school seems like an eternity ago, but at the same time, I still recall my experiences and these lessons so vividly. Probably because I'll need them forever.